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The sloth bear is native to India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh and is sometimes found in tall grasslands that provide dense cover. Sloth bears primarily eat termites and ants, and unlike other bear species, they routinely carry their cubs on their backs.
Sloth bears have a long shaggy, black coat with a dirty white or yellow V shaped marking on their chest. Their face is covered with much shorter hair including their long muzzle which is a dirty white or grey. The hair is longest and thickest behind their ears and on the back of their neck. The color and texture of their coat varies with the seasons.Their thick coat helps protect their skin from insects.Sloth bears have small ears, and they are not good at hearing nor seeing. They have an excellent sense of smell. Male sloth bears can grow to be over 6 feet in length, measure 3 feet at the shoulders when standing on all four, and weigh from 175 to 310 pounds. Females are approximately 67 percent the size and weight of males.
Sloth bears are noisy, busy animals. They snort as they pull down branches to get fruit, dig for termites and ants,snuffle under debris for grubs and beetles.
If threatened, they will stand on two legs, brandishing their clawed forepaws as weapons. Their large canines are used for defense against tigers. They have a number of unique adaptations to support their primarily insectivorous lifestyle. They have no upper incisors, which allow their long tongue to slip through and suck up insects. Their 4-inch-long curved claws are also designed for digging for grubs and tearing apart termite mounds. To prevent termites and ants from crawling into their noses to defend their nests, the sloth bear’s nostrils can close tightly as a barrier. During the dry season, nearly 95 percent of a sloth bear’s diet is insects and during the wet season, they will climb high into the branches of trees to gather fruits, flowers and honeycombs.
The gestation of a female sloth bear typically lasts seven months, after that two cubs are born, although the mother will sometimes give birth to one or three young. The newborns stay in their den until they are about 2 or 3 months old and will remain by their mother’s side until at least 2 years of age. Sloth bears will defend their territories and their young, and despite having “sloth” in their name, the speed at which they can attack is far quicker than the speed at which a human can run. Sloth bears in captivity have lived as long as 40 years. Their average life span in the wild is thought to be closer to 20 years.
The number of sloth bears is continuously declined over the years. Their total population is estimated to be between 7000 and 10,000. As with most wild animals, the greatest threat to their existance is destruction of their habitat. Many human activities threaten the sloth bears’ survival. Poaching for the bears’ gallbladder, which is used in traditional medicine, is a rampant problem. Habitat loss and fragmentation in the Indian subcontinent are also severe threats, as bears become displaced from their forest homes. So its my humble request to control these activities so that we can save this creatures for the upcoming generations.
By PRATTAY KUNDU